When I was 25, I lived for eleven months in a small tourist town called Airlie Beach. It was an ugly, fascinating place, a backpacker outpost of 3000 locals and twice as many tourists on any given day. The fascinating thing about it was that it was the kind of place where if you shamed yourself–drink too much, sleep with the wrong person, get into a fight–all you had to do was lay low for five days and everyone you’d met or known in the town would have left, moved on, permanently out of your life, if you so choose. And there was a lot of intemperate drinking, misguided sex and incendiary violence.
After I left, I wanted to write a book about Airlie Beach. I wanted to write about the artificial lagoon the locals called the ‘sperm bank’, the Casanova diving instructors, oysters kilpatrick, the bi-weekly wet t-shirt contests, bedbugs, early morning beer golf, the smell of stale sex when the algae was blooming in the waterways, and the most stomach- (and rectum-) clenching burgers I’ve ever willingly eaten, but most of all I wanted to write about this phenomenon of the perpetual clean slate and the attendant feeling of being utterly lost in body and spirit.
Then I read The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson and realised that my story had already been written and a hundred times better than I ever could. The moment had passed. Now, this is probably all I’ll ever write about Airlie Beach.
-Reading the Why